The Predator films went quiet after the second film, and Alien films were stalled by Resurrection seven years earlier. In that time, there had been a series of successful Alien and Predator comics by publisher Dark Horse Comics. In 1990, Dark Horse brought the franchises together, which was one of those crossovers that you never knew you wanted until you were given it. The Alien vs. Predator comics were very popular and fueled desires of a crossover movie from the fans of the franchises. There were attempts to bring this to life, but it seems nobody could settle on a story idea.
After the first Resident Evil was somewhat successful in it’s box office, Director Paul WS Anderson was brought in to guide the film to fruition. Rather than adapt the comics, they came up with an entirely new story (though they did adopt a few ideas from the comics). Set in 2004, a Weyland (eventually becoming Weyland Yutani, the company from the Alien films) satellite discovers a unique structure buried below arctic ice. The company assembles a team of historians, geologists, survivalists and so on to investigate (and lay claim to the discovery). Lance Henrickson returns to the Alien franchise as Charles Bishop Weyland…the human on which his character from Aliens was based.
They discover a pyramid that seems to be a combination of structures from around the globe. The film suggests this pyramid was part of the cradle of civilization and people worshiped the Predators as gods. Ridley Scott borrowed this notion for Prometheus (but it was language and cave art). The humans are unaware of the arrival of the Predators, and inadvertently activate the dormant temple. An alien queen is revived and starts pumping out eggs. A bunch of nameless characters are attacked and birth aliens while the Predators discover they are not alone. There is the standard misunderstanding where the people are hunted by both Predator and Alien, but eventually the last human and Predator team up.
The visual effects (especially the practical effects) are quite good, though Anderson relies to heavily on the “Transition Through Hologram” set up, which he used in Resident Evil. Considering how large the cast is, very few characters are well defined, resulting in the majority of characters simply being monster fodder.
This is the first film set in the present for the Alien films. The Predator films were always in the present, so the idea that people are running into Predators is not much of an issue. For the Aliens, the idea that they are already on earth seems pretty problematic. The film tries to resolve this and as a one off film, this would probably be sufficient…but then they made a second film…